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Stephen Leckie honoured for ‘outstanding contribution’ at The Herald’s Scottish Family Business Awards

 Stephen Leckie, Chief Executive of Crieff Hydro has won recognition for his outstanding contribution to the family business sector at The Herald's Scottish Family Business Awards last night.

Crieff Hydro was founded by Leckie’s great great grand-uncle in 1868 and is famous for being Scotland’s oldest registered trading company.

Stephen Leckie is the fifth generation to run the business and over the past 20 years has transformed the hotel from a sleepy, traditional establishment into what is now one of the UK’s leading leisure resorts, creating unique points of difference in its offering through innovation, experience, personality and its unique brand of hospitality.

The business regularly hosts over 1000 customers overnight at the main hotel and at the smaller Murray Park hotel nearby.

Crieff Hydro leveraged its strong existing customer base, reputation and management expertise earlier this year, when it secured a management agreement to operate four additional hotels.  The Yorkshire Hotel in Harrogate (80 rooms); The Ballachulish Hotel (53 rooms); The Isles of Glencoe Hotel and Leisure Centre (59 rooms) and the Oban Caledonian Hotel (59 rooms) were incorporated under a wholly owned subsidiary company, Freedom Hotels (Management) Ltd.

Crieff Hydro Ltd also completed the purchase of all the shares of Peebles Hydro Limited (formerly The Peebles Hotel Hydropathic Limited) which owns and operates Peebles Hydro (132 rooms) and The Park Hotel in Peebles (25 rooms).

The moves became an important milestone in the Crieff Hydro history and in Stephen Leckie’s career, establishing what is now known as the Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels, a career which started when Leckie was a young boy, cleaning chalets for just 7p an hour at the hotel until his mother caught him eating Kit Kats and reduced his pay to 3.5p per hour.  He later found out that his peers were being paid 50p an hour, a sobering moment for the then 12 year old.

This year’s expansion has consolidated Crieff Hydro’s position as one of the Scotland’s leading operators in the leisure and business market.

The company recently posted its annual accounts reporting a 6% growth in revenue from £17,713,775 to £18,845,916 and has spoken of its ambitious plans for development of each of the new hotels with an investment of millions over the next five years.

The award was presented to Stephen in honour of his outstanding achievements in building up the business.

Speaking about the award, Stephen Leckie commented; “It is a great honour for me to receive this prestigious accolade at this year’s family awards.  This means a great deal to me.  Family is of course everything.  My family and the history and heritage of Crieff Hydro, our family of team members who devote each day of their professional lives to meeting and exceeding customer expectations, to surprising and delighting the people who choose to come to stay with us and of course our wider family of hotels.”

He added: “Crieff Hydro’s success has been built around the philosophy of ‘One family looking after another’, a guiding principle which has helped us to grow our family.  Did we want to have a portfolio of hotels, to be a corporate group?  No – we wanted to expand our family.  The word in itself is fundamental to who we are and what we offer and where would we be without our family of team members who create the rich, colourful fabric of daily life at Crieff Hydro and our other properties?  A great sum of many parts.  A cog in a wonderful, continuously turning wheel.  A team who truly make a difference.”

Speaking about the awards, Hugh Lightbody, of Business Gateway, said: “This year’s Family Business Awards recognised and celebrated the high quality of Scotland’s family business community and our congratulations go to all of the winners and finalists. Family businesses account for almost three quarters of companies in Scotland and Business Gateway supports many of them on a daily basis. The contribution this sector makes to the whole Scottish economy is significant and recognising and supporting their efforts, while helping raise their profiles, is vitally important for their continued success.

The event was held in Association with Business Gateway, at the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow and attended by over 300 guests.

Crieff Hydro was named ‘Rural Business of the Year’ at the Scottish Family Business Awards in 2013 and received a commendation in the Customer Service Excellence category.



Crieff Hydro Ltd Publishes Annual Results: Investment strategy delivers strong growth across business

Crieff Hydro Ltd, Scotland’s oldest registered trading company has today released its 146th annual set of accounts for the year ended 28 February 2014, reporting a 6% growth in revenue from £17,713,775 to £18,845,916.

The underlying core profitability before deduction of exceptional costs was £663,615 - an increase of 4.8% on the previous year.

The overall growth has been driven by continued re-investment and focus in placing product, people, customers and responsibility at the heart of the business.

Capital investment continued at Crieff Hydro in the year with a spend of £1,742,561.

Notable investments include the opening of a new family oriented food outlet, Piccolo, the launch of its aerial adventure course, Aloft!, a rolling programme of bedroom and self-catering refurbishment and continued improvement in staff facilities.  

Investment in revenue management and financial disciplines, sales and marketing and in initiatives to improve the resort’s service levels and customer experience have contributed to growth and an improvement of over 3% in the average room rate, driving an increase in room yield of 7%. 

The company also pursued a number of strategic opportunities in the course of the year, leveraging its strong existing customer base, reputation and management expertise, which culminated in the securing of a management agreement to operate four additional hotels.  The Yorkshire Hotel in Harrogate (80 rooms); The Ballachulish Hotel (53 rooms); The Isles of Glencoe Hotel and Leisure Centre (59 rooms) and the Oban Caledonian Hotel (59 rooms) were incorporated under a wholly owned subsidiary company, Freedom Hotels (Management) Ltd.

Crieff Hydro Ltd also completed the purchase of all the shares of Peebles Hydro Limited (formerly The Peebles Hotel Hydropathic Limited) which owns and operates Peebles Hydro (132 rooms) and The Park Hotel in Peebles (25 rooms). Peebles Hydro Limited is also a wholly owned subsidiary company of Crieff Hydro Ltd.

Taken together, these transactions bring the total number of hotel bedrooms being operated by the company at the year-end to 644, an increase from 236 in 2013. In addition, the company operates 55 self-catering units, representing a further 137 bedrooms.

Over the past 12 months the company has also strengthened its commitment to minimise its environmental impact and this success was measured by an improved rating from VisitScotland’s Green Tourism Business Scheme.

Amongst many notable achievements are improved energy efficiency, the promotion of local suppliers through the company’s ‘Hydro Heroes’ initiative and sustainable transport supported by ever-growing enthusiasm within the team for corporate social responsibility.

The company has also embarked on a programme with Zero Waste Scotland which will see it investing in a leading approach to waste segregation amongst a number of plans for significant initiatives in this area in the year ahead.

A focus on its team remains a key part of the Crieff Hydro’s strategy. During the year the company has continued to nurture talent and develop capability at all levels of the business.

Stephen Leckie, Chief Executive of Crieff Hydro said; “Crieff Hydro has undoubtedly had a milestone year and I’m delighted that our continued investment has resulted in a significant increase in revenue and a healthy dividend for our shareholders.  However, there remains uncertainty and risk around the pace and trends in the wider economic recovery and there is no room for complacency.  Although we are currently outperforming our competitive set in many areas, we will remain committed to controlling and reviewing our variable costs and improving efficiency to allow us to be flexible and responsive to changes in customer expectations, trends and events in the economic landscape.  Our independence and our ability to remain nimble and flex with the environment is one of the key attributes of the company and one which currently sets the Crieff Hydro Family apart from most of our competitors.”

John Jennett, Managing Director of Crieff Hydro said, “Investment has been key to our success in the past 12 months, both in relation to our capital spend and our growth strategy, moves which have now consolidated Crieff Hydro Limited’s position as one of Scotland’s leading operators for the business and leisure market.  A similar capital spend is planned for 2015 with continued reinvestment to improve longer-term efficiency, business performance and overall customer experience.”

He added; “Having the drive and commitment to providing great hospitality and the best customer experience possible can’t be underestimated.  This is why we’re in business. We now have eight hotels as part of the Crieff Hydro Family, all very different in their own ways but each one joined together by our glue, which is real enthusiasm and commitment for delivering our unique brand of hospitality with emphasis on quality, personality and in continually exceeding customer expectations.  We continue to be motivated to surprise and delight and this year offers us a whole new opportunity to do in each of our new hotels, extending the unique brand of Crieff Hydro hospitality.”

- ends -


Response to Referendum outcome - Message from Chief Executive, Stephen Leckie 

“We are in the business of hospitality and not politics. We have a big team of over 800 people and hundreds of thousands of customers all over the UK – run a hotel in England as well as seven in Scotland and we have shareholders all over the country, and indeed the world. Some of those team members, customers and shareholders will be delighted with today’s result, nearly as many will not. We should be mindful of that division and play our part in the healing that starts today as we learn more about big changes in the pipeline not just for Scotland, but the whole of the UK.

Will the outcome of these changes be good or bad for business? For our team? For our customers? That’s something everyone wants to know but right now we just can’t predict. Will it have an effect? Well of course just like any other major event brings change – and there would have been big change whichever way the result had gone.  Change will always bring unexpected twists, turns and complexities and these are just things we need to deal with.  

In my time we’ve contended with recessions, foot and mouth and the impact of terrorism and ash clouds. Previous generations of my family have had to deal with wars. We’ve had good weather, bad weather, Commonwealth Games and right now the fantastic spectacle of the Ryder Cup. Dealing with these things is the business we are in and have been since 1868. 

Whilst we’ve been around for over 140 years, people have been enjoying hotels and holidays in Scotland for longer. We’re part of one of Scotland’s biggest industries. One that is highly resilient and has re-invented itself many times over. Why? Because of the appeal of the country and its people. None of that is changed by this referendum – in fact the passion and intensity of the debates has enhanced that distinct sense of what it is to be Scottish that we are all so proud of. While we remain apolitical, we have always seen ourselves as part of the bigger Scottish team and will continue to be so.  Wherever this journey is taking us - we are all in it together.

We are one of the largest hotel businesses in Scotland – indeed some have described us as an “institution” in the best sense of the word.  Whether in good times or bad, our approach has always been to build our business with a positive outlook and look ahead to the future. More than that, we have a wider responsibility to the towns and communities we operate in and to the wider tourism picture in Scotland. I actively provide leadership or work closely with - amongst others - the Scottish Government, VisitScotland, The Scottish Tourism Alliance and the British Hospitality Association alongside more local initiatives from the Community Council to the Chamber of Commerce. Although we only expanded our business earlier this year we are also putting down roots with similar organisations in Oban, Harrogate, Fort William and Glencoe. At a time of change, my role in this becomes even more critical as we work positively to develop tourism – one of Scotland’s biggest assets.

We will continue to develop all that we offer for team members and customers and I’m confident in the ability of our teams to look after the business and our customers, whatever change is afoot. This means there will always be a warm welcome for customers from far and wide both here at Crieff Hydro and at our other hotels across the whole of Scotland and England for generations to come.”



Stephen Leckie Awarded 'Entrepreneur of the Year' in Business Honours List

Stephen Leckie, Chief Executive Officer of Crieff Hydro has been announced as ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the inaugural Scottish Business Honours 2014 ceremony held at Prestonfield House in Edinburgh.

Organised by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the prestigious awards showcase the best Scottish businesses from local Chambers of Commerce all over Scotland and celebrate the spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship and the dynamism of Scottish businesses.

The evening was hosted by Kaye Adams and included Jim McColl OBE, Founder, Chairman & CEO of Clyde Blowers Capital as Keynote Speaker, concluding with Fred MacAulay for the Celebrations.

On receiving the award, Stephen Leckie said; “It really is a privilege to be here tonight and to have been presented with this award.  This is an exciting time for business in Scotland and to be recognised and applauded for taking a lead in doing things a bit differently, being confidently creative and occasionally a bit mad and ‘out there’ and taking the risks that come with all of that reassure me that this slightly quirky and brave approach is the right thing one.”

He added; “The Crieff Hydro Family of hotels is performing well and we have a huge team of passionate, creative and energetic people that make that happen.  This award is a reflection of their desire, willingness and courage to be different in their delivery of a customer journey that exceeds expectations.  I have always said that people are at the heart of hospitality.  It’s about personality, professionalism and passion.  It shows, you can’t hide from it and I’m hugely inspired by the team around me and what they do each day of their professional lives across the Crieff Hydro Family.” 

Liz Cameron, Director/Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce said: “Tonight, we have shown that Business is Great for Scotland. Extraordinary businesses – small, medium and large – have been awarded the Scottish Business Honour for their innovation, entrepreneurship and commitment to Scotland. These awards, inspired by business, place the hard work and contribution that businesses make to people, to local communities and to Scotland at the heart of the event.

“All the businesses – from global brands and exporters to one person owners to family businesses, are a true inspiration enabling us to champion the wealth of our talent and skills that we have right here in Scotland. I am especially proud of the spotlight placed on those businesses that would not normally get the profile or recognition outside of their own communities, making the ceremony a true celebration of the best of Scottish business.

“Let’s now use our energy and vigour from tonight’s celebrations to look forward. No matter what the outcome of the referendum, let’s stand united to grow our economy, create new jobs and promote investment in Scotland.”  



Crieff Hydro Salon scoops award at Clarins UK Gold Salon of the Year

Crieff Hydro, Scotland’s leading family resort, is delighted to announce that its Salon scooped third place in the Clarins UK Gold Salon of the Year Award, one of the highest national accolades in the UK beauty salon business.

The Salon was awarded Gold Salon status in 2007 by Clarins in recognition for its exemplary level of Clarins service and has been shortlisted as one of the final five for the Salon of the Year award based on the salon’s commitment to training, events, representation of brand and delivery of customer experience.

The salon was judged on its level of professional advice, client care, salon ambience and overall business development with the winner of the Gold Salon of the Year was announced on 1 May at a ceremony at Stapleford Park Country House Hotel in Leicestershire.

Crieff Hydro welcomed the team from Clarins earlier this year for a special three day intensive training schedule ahead of the launch of an exciting new treatment, the Clarins Melting Honey and Hot Stone massage.   A uniquely personalised hot stone massage that gently releases tension, soothes aching muscles, eliminates toxins, rebalances energy levels and calms mind and body, the therapist uses her hands in harmony with nine smooth, individually shaped, heat releasing marble and slate stones. The stones are an extension of the hands to rebalance the body's energy flow and relax muscles. The effect is intensified by a melting gel, rich in deeply relaxing or invigorating aromatic essential oils.  Ten therapists are now trained in the new 50-minute treatment, priced at £65 which was rolled out in the Spa in May.

Speaking about the shortlist announcement, Crieff Hydro Spa Manager, Fiona Young said; “We are so pleased and excited to have our efforts and achievements recognised in the Clarins UK Gold Salon of the Year. The team has worked incredibly hard over the last year attending trainings in Edinburgh to up level their knowledge of the treatments along with brand knowledge and they strive to deliver the best possible Clarins experience along with that Crieff Hydro special twist. The introduction of Clarins event evenings last year has been a huge hit along with the summer make up lessons that we provided for hotel guests. I couldn’t be more proud of this talented team.”


Action Glen to launch new family treasure hunt for Spring

Action Glen, Crieff Hydro’s outdoor activity centre is launching a new treasure hunt for families this Easter weekend.

‘Glen’s Treasure Hunt’ will launch on Good Friday as a brand new family outdoor activity for guests and visitors to Perthshire giving participants the opportunity to visit some of the landmarks on the Crieff Hydro estate and take in some great views along the circular route around the resort. 

The experience is open all day and participants begin their treasure hunt at Action Glen with clues looping them round the resort to finish back at the beginning to collect their prize!

The hunt will take around 40 minutes to complete for fast pacers or an hour and a half for those who prefer a more leisurely pace.

The new experience is open to all and costs just £5 per group which includes a map, questions, pencil and prize on completion.

To book, please call Action Glen on 01764 651622


Famous Hydros Comes Together as Crieff Announces Expansion

Crieff Hydro, Scotland’s oldest registered trading company, has announced that it has agreed terms to acquire two well-known Borders hotels from McMillan Hotels later this month.

The new acquisitions, Peebles Hydro and the Park Hotel in Peebles offer the Company an opportunity to establish a presence in the Borders area, bringing the experience, expertise and ethos of Crieff Hydro to create a gateway hotel in this part of the country. The deal is expected to be concluded in the next few weeks.

In a separate deal, the business has kicked off a joint venture to manage a further four Hotels: three on Scotland’s West Coast and one in Harrogate. The moves will add over 400 bedrooms and £10M of revenue to the long-established business - consolidating its position as one of Scotland’s leading hotel operators.

The Yorkshire Hotel in Harrogate, The Isles of Glencoe Hotel & Leisure Centre, The Ballachulish Hotel and the Oban Caledonian will be run as a joint venture with the owner of these four properties as part of the expanding collection supported by Crieff Hydro.

Speaking about the moves, Chief Executive of Crieff Hydro, Stephen Leckie commented;  “This is a significant opportunity to develop travel, tourism and leisure opportunities in some of the country’s most important tourist areas. Over the coming years, our approach will be to develop and enhance the existing facilities in these hotels and build on their individuality and personality.  They are all very different from Crieff Hydro as a destination resort. In time, they will all share the same warmth of hospitality and independent thinking we have at Crieff. Apart from investing to develop facilities, we’ll have a particular focus on bringing together all of the local elements. Engaging with partner businesses locally and understanding what local customers want from these hotels will be really important to us. These are great destinations and while we aren’t setting out to make these the most luxurious hotels in the area - we do want them to stand as real advocates for their villages and towns.  What we are interested in is generating more new visitors to each of the areas.”                                                                                                

The Company will develop plans for significant investment but the emphasis will be on looking after customers and the teams in the Hotels.  Crieff Hydro has picked up three  national awards for its training and development and is highly rated by its own customers.

Crieff Hydro Managing Director John Jennett added; “Food quality is of signature importance at Crieff Hydro and in time we will bring the same ethos and approach that we have at Crieff Hydro to these hotels with an emphasis on quality, distinctive menus, local provenance and offering value for money.”

McMillan Hotels Managing Director, Douglas McMillan said “We have been in discussions with Crieff Hydro for more than a year. We are in the process of restructuring our own business, refocusing and reinvesting in our properties in our heartland in the south west of Scotland. To that end, we have been determined that we should achieve as seamless a handover as possible and that these two much-loved hotels will be developed further. We are confident that Crieff Hydro will provide an excellent fit, and the hotels will continue to prosper and progress.”

McMillan Hotels and Crieff Hydro are working closely to ensure the smoothest handover possible for customers and staff. The change in ownership will have no effect on the team working in Peebles Hydro; there will be no redundancies, nor will it affect any customers with existing bookings or gift vouchers.

Stephen Leckie said; “The trade press is full of hotels that are based on uniform formulas that work brilliantly in the cities. Taking on a mixed bag of country hotels is hardly fashionable. But once you’re away from the cities, it’s hotels like this that are the real heart and soul of Scotland’s tourism product and tourism is increasingly recognised as being amongst the biggest economic drivers for the country. So for the sake of the prosperity of our own business and the wider tourism picture I believe we’ll make a success of these. I’m looking forward to working with the Tourism Partnerships, local businesses and suppliers to partner and promote local attractions, eateries, shopping experiences, history and heritage and effectively do all we can to add to the quality visitor experience.”  Part of the Company plans are to launch a Community Engagement programme in each hotel area, inviting local stakeholders to participate in developing the way ahead. 

John Jennett added; “We’ve been working on these deals in a different transaction climate to the one we’ve been used to in the past. Whilst the approach is different, we have had a positive experience with most lenders and were delighted to get competitive offers from four major banks.” The end result is that the company has re-banked from Lloyds (Bank of Scotland) to Santander both for the core business and to fund the acquisition and development of Peebles Hydro. According to Jennett, “Santander were able to offer a real understanding of our business, short lines of communication and sharp commercial rates – something that was quite different from what was on offer elsewhere.”

He added; “Even with bank support, a good track record and a brilliant management team, deals like this require the best expertise alongside creativity and sheer stamina to bring to a conclusion. We decided at the outset we wanted the very best professionals to advise us and the deals have been facilitated by the experienced leisure/hospitality team at bto Solicitors Glasgow, and the Corporate Finance specialists at Campbell Dallas, also in Glasgow.

Stephen Leckie added; “Investment isn’t something that will happen overnight as it will need careful planning to get it right. What we do think can happen over the next few months is that we can bring a flavour of the service for which Crieff Hydro has become renowned and generate real momentum with our vision of what can be achieved in the longer term for the new hotels and tourism in the area.” Leckie is also Chair of The Scottish Tourism Alliance and was awarded an outstanding achievement award by Visitscotland last year in recognition of his contribution to the tourism industry across the country.

Jennett has been MD of Crieff Hydro since 2011: the first non-family member to take up the post in the business’ long history. His partnership with Stephen Leckie has seen the business defy industry trends and grow by more than 10% since then to more than £18M. The pair were recently listed by Caterer Magazine as being amongst the most influential figures in Scottish Tourism alongside names like Andrew Fairlie and Nick Nairn. Jennett was previously involved in the three west coast hotels now coming into the Crieff Hydro fold: as MD he built up the business in the 90’s before selling to Swallow Hotels in 2006. 

Colin Johnston, owner of the four Freedom Hotels said; “Although I’ve owned these hotels for a number of years, the setup has never been quite right. I’m delighted to enter a new type of joint venture with the team at Crieff Hydro whom I have known for many years. Having been through the hands of a few operators, it will take time for these businesses to stabilise but I know they have great potential. This is about the long-term for me and for Crieff Hydro. In time, I am sure that the teams in the hotels, the customers, Crieff Hydro and myself will all feel really proud to be part of this story.”

With years of low investment to catch up on, Jennett is quick to point out that the hotels may never return to the 4 Star standard they once were, but he believes this is less important than re-focussing on the business basics. “Running hotels is about hospitality – in other words looking after people first and foremost. Whether those people are your customers, your team or other people you deal with.” He says, “It has to be commercially sound, but if you come at it from a belief and a pride in hospitality then you are on the right track. It’s because of that belief that Crieff Hydro has thrived for nearly 150 years.”








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